Thursday, July 17, 2014

National Grid to consider tunnel under Morecambe Bay

A £38 billion tunnel under Morecambe Bay has emerged as a front runner for getting wind and possible nuclear power from the "Energy Coast" of West Cumbria to the National Grid.

Anyone who has been following the discussion about energy generation in West Cumbria will know that something like this has been on the cards for a while. A new nuclear plant near Sellafield looks increasingly likely, and whatever the handful of anti-nuclear nutters will tell you, the great majority of residents of West Cumbria have repeatedly shown by electing pro-nuclear MPs and councillors that they will welcome this. New Nuclear build does not make a new grid connection necessary - it merely increases the shortfall of existing grid capacity.

Because of the huge amount of offshore wind, other renewables, and conventional power generation which is already under construction or built on the Cumbrian Coast, we already need to double the capacity of the areas National Grid connections. Nuclear makes the difference between having to double it and needing to triple it.

And I am not in favour of putting hundreds of huge overground power pylons through the Lake District National Park. I fought the last election on a platform of putting the new power connections through an offshore route, and still support that policy.

I would like to see the Energy and Tarnsport departments look very seriously, with the NAitonal grid, at the possiblity of combining a grid connection with a transport link - be it a tunnel or bridge - over the Duddon and Morecambe Bay estuariies to gain economies of scope. But if we are not going to do that, the proposed tunnel is a great deal better than most of the possible alternatives.

The current proposal, unveiled this morning by the National Grid as their preferred option,   is to install new cables from West Cumbria to Carlisle and new cables from West Cumbria to Heysham via a massive underwater tunnel across Morecambe Bay.

The plan would also need a line of 152ft-high pylons, spaced 400 yards apart, stretching through Whitehaven and to Carlisle northwards and through the Barrow area to the south..Work is not expected to start until the next decade.

Sadly, National Grid said there were no plans to incorporate any kind of transport system for vehicles as part of the tunnel, which could cost up to £3bn.

Personally I think that would be money very well spent.

Other possible routes include new cabling across South Cumbria from west to east and an offshore route which would go out into the Irish Sea before coming back on land at Heysham.

National Grid’s project manager Robert Powell said: “The discussions we’ve had over the course of several years have given us invaluable information which has helped us develop and refine the options for connecting new power generation into our network.

“We’re now at a crucial stage of our project.

“We’re getting ready to share with local communities all the work that we have done to date and to seek their views on our findings including what we have identified as our ‘emerging preference’ at this point.

“We promise to listen, to learn from what we hear and then to seek to develop the project in a way which achieves a balance between meeting our country’s future energy needs and protecting the very special landscapes it touches upon.”

National Grid has been working on the project for the last five years, with concerns being raised about the project’s potential impact on the Cumbrian landscape.


Jim said...

Oh dear.

"the great majority of residents of West Cumbria have repeatedly shown by electing pro-nuclear MPs and councillors that they will welcome this."

now you may well be correct that the vast majority of West Cumbria would support this, in fact, I would bet my bottom dollar on that. But to say they have shown it by elcting pro nuclear MPs, well thats poor evidence if its evidence at all. The fact more people dont turn out to vote for MPs than do, really puts your argument there into context, in other words the vast majority have not.

There is a simple solution to this, and its so simple I am amazed no politician ever comes up with it, its very basic. If you want to know what the vast Majority of West Cumbrian citizens think about this issue, then why dont you just ask them?

Jim said...

Sorry Chris, but your statement there really was as Bizarre as stating:

"I think England should drive on the right hand side of the road. The majority of English people would agree with me, as they have consistently shown by going on holiday to places where this policy is adopted"

Chris Whiteside said...

Jim, why on earth do you and I need to get into an argument about something where you have written that you would bet your bottom dollar that my basic point is right?

Opinion polls also suggest that the majority of West Cumbrians would welcome a new generation of nuclear power plants.

While I was a Copeland councillor, a CBC vote on Copeland Council on the subject, while it was not unanimous about other possible sites in the area was unanimous that the council would support new nuclear build at Sellafield. That was a free vote on the Conservative side with no whip.

And every other measure of opinion I have seen is consistent with the view that most people in the area support the building of new nuclear power stations at Sellafield.

There have been people who stood for election in West Cumbria on an anti-nuclear platform, and they always get heavily defeated. I think that is a pretty convincing indicator that their view on this issue view is not the majority view, but that is not the only indicator.

Where there is the least doubt about what the majority of local residents think - as there is on a nuclear waste repository - I do support asking their opinion through a referendum.